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as disgusting as loathsome, and which I instantly expunged from the edition, in "his erotic fever" says,
Will you venture to say this epistle was not written by Pope? Will you venture to defend the foul and loathsome ribaldry, and deliberate "pruriency;" not of a young man, but of a man at the mature age of forty-two? Will you dare to say, that such an insult to a married woman, let her be as much a flirt as she might, did not deserve almost to be marked with infamy as long as the dark blot remains on his character?
I am not writing as editor now, but I speak as I think and feel, and as I think every one who has the least shadow of manly generosity feels. But whether the well-known couplet was applied to Lady Mary, or Mrs. Centlivre, or Mrs. Behn, &c. it spake the
"Assassin's vengeance, and the coward's LIE!"
As to his purity, even if he did not write this infamous epistle, of which no one, I believe, doubts, it is quite ridiculous for you or any man to pretend that Pope was not licentious in ideas at least, with respect to women; for certainly the most seducingly licentious poem, in this or any language, is his beautiful epistle of Eloisa; the more seducing on account of its beauty. A poem indecent in words, is not half so dangerous as this, wherein the triumph, not of love, but of a grosser passion, over every restraint of religion and morality, is depicted in
"Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn:"
and even, for actual and gross indecency, perhaps no tolerated poem ever went so far. And how doubly disgusting to read, from such a writer,
"Curst be the verse, how well soe'er it flow,2
As to the "Imitation," let it be written with or without a name, no idleness of youth could extenuate the crime; it was published in mature age. To say that he who wrote it was not as unprincipled as libertine, would be a perversion of language.
Lest there should be a doubt of the name, it is so printed-gu."
2 See Notes on the "Pursuits of Literature." The author, though the greatest admirer of Pope, clearly admits him to be the author of this rank obscenity.
All we can do is to hope and believe, that he was sorry for it; and that it was, as it must have been, rejected from his Works by Warburton, according to his anxious wishes.
Pope's connexion with M. Blount, &c.-When I defy you to produce any passage or passages to justify the nauseous and obscene imagery of your criticism, you slink into generalities, and we are told of the pruriency discoverable in what is said generally of Pope's connexion with the Miss Blounts!
That will not do. Print your critique, and any passage or passages you can find, opposite, and let the reader determine to whom pruriency and disgusting images belong.
But not a word of these things should be mentioned! Say nothing of the satire! Take care to suppress any mention of Pope's early attachments, though connected with his literary life! Above all, let not his bodily infirmities be so much as hinted at!
What kind of biography could that be, that kept out of sight (in my opinion, most affectedly) every thing that might tend to exhibit the exalted hero subject to any of the infirmities of humanity? What has Sir Walter Scott deserved, who has traced so minutely, and, in my opinion, so justly, the connexion between Swift and the broken-hearted Vanessa? Yet Sir Walter, as an editor of Swift, has not spared parts of his character worse than infirmities; and, if I have spoken of youthful gallantries, he has laid open a scene of the most cold-hearted cruelty to an injured and doating female !
Has he laid "his nose to the ground to smell the taint of" this connexion? Has his "minuteness" of "anatomical" scrutiny been unworthy a gentleman? I have spoken of Pope's connexion with the Blounts; but, when it is said I have done it in such a manner as to show my own indelicacy, the prurient hypocrite, who can "swallow camels and strain at gnats," slinks into generalities, because he knows he can produce no passage to justify the obscene caricatures of his own foul imagination.
Money-getting sordid passion.-In the Life, I have spoken of Pope's prudence with regard to money. The critic says, "the truth is, he was apt to be extremely negligent!" The truth is, he was not apt to be extremely negligent! His letters prove it. I deny not his benevolence; I wish I had spoken more directly of his charity; I wish it sincerely, and would, if I could, make every amends for my culpable inattention to this part of his character. I would join heart and hand with my opponent, in finding out and acknowledging every instance of kindness.
In the Life, nothing occurs, I am sure, to justify the exaggerated charge of "sordid money-getting," even if every inadvertent expression in the body of the work is to be put into the crucible.
Here is an expression adduced from the notes, "that he made gain the end of his poetry." I think this may be said, when we consider the subscription, almost national, for the translation of Homer, and his reluctance to the task. But I beg you to observe, that Pope used the words, "principal end;" I have only said in this note, Pope made gain the end (not the "principal end") of his art; but even this does not prove a SORDID PASSION." The "sordid" man is he who hoards all he gets; who pines amidst his store. How is this consistent with Pope's "general benevolence," which I have called undoubted? Johnson professed to make "honorable gain" the end of his intellectual labors; but was he sordid? Even the note you have brought against me, from a corner, fails to prove the charge of my " accusing" Pope of "sordidness," as I have shown the failure of your other instances. "TRY AGAIN!"
. Negligence of money.—Let the reader compare the language in a letter to Theresa :
"I find from those whose judgment 1 myself could depend on, that it is thought the South-Sea will rather fall than rise, towards the sitting of the Parliament; and, upon this belief, I have myself kept a thousand and five hundred lying by me, to buy at such a juncture !"
"I have given orders to buy 500 for myself, as soon as South-Sea falls to 103, which you shall have if you have a mind to it."
I could extract many passages of the same description, but think these enough to answer the assertion respecting his professed carelessness about money.
I shall now only extract the first sentence of the first letter to Fortescue, to show that this feeling of prudence is uppermost; and such extracts from Pope himself are of greater authority than Mrs. Rackett's assertion :
"Dear Sir,-From an information given me by Mr. Gay, that estates were yet to be had in Devonshire, at twenty or twentyfive years' purchase; I beg it of you, as a particular kindness, to interest yourself so much in my affairs, as to get, if possible, about the yearly value of two hundred pounds, entirely, or in parcels, as it falls out, and as to your judgment may seem meet," &c.
Now, I do not, nor ever did, say, that with all this attention to the most prudent management of affairs, he might not have been generous. I have expressly said, he was "generally benevolent;" but I have not charged him with " sordidness," or money-getting passions, either in word or sentiment.
What is brought to show I accused him of the worst of tempers, does not do so.
Let Mr. D'Israeli's character of Pope be tried by the same
Quam temerè in nosmet legem sancimus iniquam!
After all, there is something chivalrous in your love and admiration, per fas et nefas, of the character of your favorite bard. If you had not used such unjustifiable, coarse, and reproachful language, I should have been glad to have met you fairly and liberally on the subject. We shall never agree about Addison or Lady Mary, but what does it matter? When you talk of my coarseness, do you never think for a moment how the cap fits yourself? I believe there is scarce an expression I have used, but such as you used before. Do you think I could be insulted and trod upon, albeit of the "gentyl" tribe, and not turn again? I have only returned you some of the stones which you have thrown so plentifully at me. Lord North used to say, "I wish to be at peace with all men, but if they assail me with stones, I will take up the largest I can find, and attack them again." I have not done this, for I believe all uncourteous expressions will be found in your vocabulary. I rather think some of the stones I have returned you may have hit you hard. You deserved it. Think of some of your expressions. I spoke with regard of one, now no more, an ornament to literature, of kind heart and polished manners. My dabs of verses are (in the peculiar facetiousness of your phraseology) for this "dead schoolmaster; and what I said, was uttered between " a hiccup and a sigh !"
It is impossible to be ignorant of the import of these words. You have before given a representation of "a priest in drink," which you have, with as much truth as charity, applied to me. Now, Sir, supposing such a representation should be the most remote from truth; suppose, that for twenty years, he, whom you have designated as "the wealthy rector," liable to be mistaken
'He is "Vicar" of Bremhill, and not "Rector;" and lest, as your answers imply, he might be supposed to spend all his time in drinking and ballad-singing, I insert, by way of some relief to this prose, a dab" of an epitaph, written in his vicarial character:
for a "priest in drink," &c. by daily custom, never exceeds three glasses of wine, unless he dines from home, once or twice in a month!
Though you, who never saw me, have laid to my charge things that I most abhor; with being affectedly sensitive, vulgarly insulting, adulating the rich, regardless of the poor," a fool," "an equivocator," and "a devil," I think the charge upon which you seem to dwell with most apparent chuckling," to be worse than all. Nor can I conceive any thing in a Christian minister more publicly scandalous, or more justly to be held in abhorrence, than the crime you more than insinuated; a crime which can only be exceeded by any man, calling himself a Christian, publishing such a slanderous aspersion, without knowing whether it be true or false.
However unpleasant it may be to speak on such a subject, the positive and peremptory denial of the truth of the representation you have made, ought to be as public as the charge.
I have enumerated a very few of your own flowers of oratory, with which you have presented me; and why is all this vulgar obloquy, this insolent slander, poured forth, without regard to charity, decency, or truth?
Conceiving you to be the author of the criticism in the Quarterly Review, which spoke of the beauties of "In-door Nature," an anonymous publication in burlesque, certainly not with the most
HER, slow consumption smote in life's fair bloom!
HE, as it smiles, that infant shall behold,
And weep the more, for her who here lies cold!
Now, I solemnly assure you, though I have no right to suppose you will believe it, that this was written with a" sigh;" for I watched and prayed over the poor woman's death-bed; and that it was not accompanied with a "hiccup!"
Let me call your critical decision to another epitaph, on the father of a large family, who, for twelve years, winter and summer, from two miles distance, regularly came, every Sunday, to the vicar's church! which "dab," to please you more, has not a single "he said," or " I said," in it :
"How awful is the bed of death,
Where the departing Christian lies!
Children, who mark this grassy sod,
THAT YOU MAY LIVE AND DIE LIKE HIM!"